HYDERABAD: Like all working mothers, 35-year-old Kalpana Rajesh too was hesitant to leave her children at a daycare centre. Busy with her job as a software consultant, she had no choice but to let her first born spend time in someone else’s care. She didn’t want her second to go through the same thing and decided to start a self-sustaining business.
The idea was to have flexible work hours so that she could take care of her children. She approached her mother for help. “She is great at braiding a floral plait (poola jada). I asked her if she could start designing new ones so that we can start a business. She said, why don’t you do it yourself,” recalls Kalpana, the founder of Pelli Poola Jada.
Four years after setting up the business, Kalpana is being touted as one of the leading entrepreneurs in the city. What started off with one branch and four employees, is now running strong with a whopping 45 branches, 250 staffers and the number of people appreciating her work is more than a lakh and counting. The lady made all this without stepping out of the house.
“We made close to 2,000 brides happy over four years through Pelli Poola Jada, marketing our services on Facebook and communicating with each other, exclusively through WhatsApp. We started with four people out of my mother’s place in LB Nagar. Now, we have branches in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Delhi, Mumbai, Singapore and five branches in the United States,” shares the entrepreneur. Her firm works as a franchise, with local branch managers and staffers. Kalpana communicates with them twice a week.
“We work on a weekly schedule. We list out our tasks at the start of the week. We dedicate two days to brainstorm and share new designs. I spend two days co-ordinating with various branch managers, discussing their challenges and how to overcome them. I make late night calls twice a week to talk to our managers in the US,” Kalpana tells us.
With social media being her only space for marketing, Kalpana ensures that enough time is dedicated to manage those pages.
“I spend two full days creating content for our blog, Facebook and Instagram pages. I decide on the content and also schedule the posting,” says Kalpana.
Once a bride chooses a poola jada from a wide range of designs, the team braids it to their liking and delivers them to the venue. The plait is fixed by make up artists who come to dress up the bride.
“Employees are mostly from lower-income houses. There are a few who work as domestic help.
They come and work with us after they finish their day job. They spend four to five hours a day during off-season and up to 12 hours during peak season.
The jadas are delivered by people who work with us part time, mostly husbands of our employees or students who want to earn a quick buck,” explains Kalpana.
With Facebook clearing out all marketing hassles, functioning has been smooth. “I created a page and uploaded a few designs on Facebook and word spread like fire. Within a year and a half, I expanded,” she recalls.
Kalpana has no plans to expand her services, that currently include flower jewellery, floral gifts, garlands, flower baskets, wedding umbrellas.
“I make less than what I used to earn as a software consultant. But it is the satisfaction of being able to support so many women that motivates me to expand to more places and generate more local employment,” explains Kalpana, who manages the business from Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu.
“We moved there after my husband, Rajesh’s transfer. He is the one who encourages me. The thought of shutting down the business came to my mind a number of times, but he insisted that I keep going at least for the sake of employees,” she beams.